If your company is like most organizations, data protection and data backup are a constant burden. Both are things that you simply have to do. They’re an insurance policy against accidental or malicious data loss and against unexpected equipment or site failurea necessary evil. They’re necessary because what drives business is the production environment. You design and build your production environment, and then you assign a person or a group to protect it. For many organizations, data protection is essentially an add-on, a cost of doing business. Does that sound familiar?


Massive new data growth and rapid changes to existing data make the job of protecting data more challenging. The global datasphere (data that is created and replicated) is expected to grow to between 160 zettabytes and 180 zettabytes by 2025. That’s more than a 10-fold increase from 2016 levels. How can traditional data protection approaches keep up with these growing demands? The answer is to transform your data protection, starting with NetApp® Snapshot™ technology.

The Challenges of Traditional Data Protection

Traditional data protection approaches stream data from your production storage to a secondary storage device. Data is streamed through the application server or the virtual host to the backup server. There, the data is often indexed, compressed, and written to a proprietary data format on a separate device, such as a disk array, a tape drive, or the cloud.

This approach often creates a bottleneck at the application server or at the virtual host. Application servers must therefore be sized and deployed with enough headroom to support backup operations. For virtualized environments, it might mean allocating resources that aren’t fully used all the time. And upgrades to production equipment might affect the performance of the protection environment, requiring even further investment.


Instead of “bolting on” data protection to your production environment, what if you built data protection into your environment? Effective array-based data protection can eliminate your backup window while simplifying your data protection workflow. The key is to build data protection into your infrastructure, rather than to bolt it on. By integrating data protection, you can scale capacity and performance more effectively and avoid the pitfalls of traditional backup. Integrated data protection from NetApp is a game changer.

Protection Starts with a Snapshot Copy

The first point of defense is to create regular and frequent copies of your data. And there’s no better way to do that than with NetApp Snapshot technology. A Snapshot copy is a read-only, virtual copy of data. These copies are space efficient and are very fast to create. And you can create more than 1,000 copies per volume, so you get very granular recovery points.


Data recovery is really fast too. It’s almost instantaneous. Why? Because there’s no movement of data. NetApp Snapshot copies rely on pointers to shared data, and only changed data is written to disk. So, you can make the data instantly available for restores. And in some cases, you can restore large amounts of data by simply moving pointers in the file system. And because a Snapshot copy is read only, your data in the Snapshot copy remains unchanged when new data is written to the production volume.


The combination of read-only attributes and rapid restore makes NetApp Snapshot copies an optimal way for your system to recover from malicious attacks, such as viruses and ransomware. You simply restore to the last known safe copy.

Can a Snapshot Copy Alone Address All My Data Protection Problems?

Snapshot copies can help you easily carry out common operational tasks, such as recovering from accidental data loss, data corruption, and malicious attacks. However, if your storage hardware or data center site fails, or if you want to pull data from an archive, you should replicate a copy of the data to secondary or tertiary storage. And most likely, that storage should be off site. The following table presents use cases for Snapshot copies alone and for Snapshot copies plus replication (with NetApp SnapMirror® technology).

Completing the Solution: Snapshot Copies + Replication (SnapMirror)

Data replication to support recovery from hardware or site failure, or to pull from a remote archive, is easy when you use NetApp ONTAP® SnapMirror replication technology. SnapMirror leverages the efficiency and speed of Snapshot copies with an incredibly efficient data replication engine that’s built into ONTAP software. Versatility, efficiency, and data reuse are just some of the many benefits that you get with SnapMirror.


Versatility. With the efficient replication that SnapMirror offers, you can support both backup and disaster recovery workloads on the same storage target by using a single I/O stream from the source storage. You can recover from, or fail over to, any point-in-time copy on the secondary storage, and you can even support different retention levels at the primary and secondary storage. For instance, you could keep 14 days’ worth of Snapshot copies (with your choice of frequency) on the primary storage. And for longer retention requirements, you could keep more than 14 days’ worth of copies on secondary storage.

With SnapMirror, you can replicate between flash, disk, cloud, or software-defined endpoints for SAN and NAS workloads. To enable write once, read many (WORM) file locking to support data retention of regulated data, you can deploy the NetApp ONTAP SnapLock® feature with SnapMirror. It’s all integrated. And it’s fantastic!


Efficiency. SnapMirror is built for efficiency with over-the-wire compression and WAN optimization. And it retains the data efficiencies of the primary storage before it replicates to secondary storage. You don’t have to inflate your data before you replicate it, so you lower your network I/O requirements and gain more efficient sizing of secondary storage. It’s a win-win.


And SnapMirror performs all these tasks without affecting your application servers or your virtualized host. You can run your virtualized infrastructure at higher utilization by eliminating the unnecessary headroom for data processing and movement.


With SnapMirror, your data is replicated directly between primary and secondary (or tertiary) storage, the blue line that divides the preceding figure. So, your application servers are freed from having to process backup jobs. You can use NDMP here to replicate directly to tape.

Data reuse. SnapMirror doesn’t use a proprietary data format. Your data is stored in native format, so you can leverage secondary storage to drive new business innovation. With the ONTAP FlexClone® feature, you can make as many read/write virtual copies of your data as you would like. You can therefore enable greater access to production data to accelerate software development, to gain new insights with data analytics, and to simplify reporting.


Or maybe you want to improve the reliability of DR failover by doing more frequent, nondisruptive DR testing that doesn’t affect production replication or require production workloads to be halted. Simply create a clone of the secondary data, mount it, and confirm replication. Done.

Do I Need Backup Software with NetApp Snapshot Based Backup?

The answer depends on what you want to do. When you combine ONTAP storage with NetApp SnapCenter® software, you get application-aware data protection and clone lifecycle management for leading enterprise applications and databases. If you select the Premium Bundle that’s available with NetApp AFF and FAS systems, SnapCenter is included. For ONTAP Cloud and ONTAP Select, you can purchase SnapCenter as a capacity license.


NetApp also works with leading vendors, so you can tailor your data protection to meet your needs. Vendors such as Commvault and Veeam offer rich data protection functionality for enterprise applications and offer virtualized infrastructures with granular file and application object restore, such as for Microsoft Exchange mailboxes. These two NetApp partners support NetApp ONTAP Snapshot technology, so you can deploy the most effective data protection solution with your choice of powerful management functionality from NetApp or from a partner.

Is This Legit? Maybe Even Too Legit (to Quit)?

Recently, the Evaluator Group published a TCO comparison of NetApp’s integrated data protection solution and a traditional backup to an external purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA). This comparison demonstrated the economic advantages of using NetApp integrated data protection for backup and recovery. With NetApp, you can achieve TCO savings of up to 70% over 3 years when compared with traditional data backup implementations. And those savings increase to as much as 75% over a 6-year period.



Perhaps the real value of a product can be measured by how many people use it. Based on NetApp AutoSupport® data, 75% of customer production volumes have Snapshot copies, each with an average of 18 Snapshot copies. And SnapMirror protects exabytes of customer data on tens of thousands of controllers. This extensive use shows that Snapshot plus replication offers higher service levels while providing better utilization of secondary data copies.

Start Your Transformation Today

It’s time to transform the way that you think about data protection. Start by integrating data protection into the core of your data infrastructure. Snapshot copies are so effective for rapid operational recovery that they should be part of any data protection deployment. By combining Snapshot technology with high-speed, efficient data replication, you get the highest-performing solution to help you recover from data loss or malicious attacks and to protect against hardware or site failure.


To thrive in today’s data-driven world, it’s essential for you to have constant access to your data. And there’s no better way to protect your precious data than with the integrated data protection that’s built on NetApp Snapshot technology. Get started today. Contact us to begin your data protection transformation from the inside out.

Jason Blosil

Jason is a business and marketing professional with over 20 years of product marketing, product management, and corporate finance experience. Since joining NetApp in 2008 he has been focused on SAN and NAS storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions, and cloud data services. When not in the office, you can find him cycling, cooking, enjoying time with family, and volunteering at his church and in the community.

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